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Siege Cannons

The Yorktown Siege (continued)

In late June Cornwallis had settled down in Williamsburg. It was a good location for him. While there Lafayette made several forays against the British rear-guard that caused them to draw in closer to the main British contingent in Williamsburg. About the same time Cornwallis received two letters from New York. Clinton was angry that Cornwallis had dallied in Virginia. He was ordered to send six infantry regiments, all of his mounted troops up to New York and immediately establish a suitable Chesapeake Bay naval base.

Not happy about the reprimand, on June 28, 1781 Cornwallis and Lieutenant-Colonel John Simcoe road out of Williamsburg to find a suitable base. They round trip took them to Old Point Comfort, Hampton Roads, and Yorktown. While in Yorktown, they came under some light artillery fire from across the river and decided to head back to Williamsburg, thus postponing making a definite decision on where to locate the naval base.

When Cornwallis received another letter requesting he immediately send 3,000 troops immediately to New York, Cornwallis withdrew from Williamsburg and moved south to Portsmouth. From there Cornwallis would be able to send as many of the requested troops as he could fit on the available ships and send them to Clinton, hopefully that would appease him to some degree.

Yorktown Battlefield

Unbeknownst to Cornwallis, at about the same time he was sending reinforcements at the request of his commander to New York, a large French contingent was preparing to set sail from Santo Domingo. When this force arrived, Cornwallis would regret sending those additional men north. When Clinton realized that he had been outfoxed by Washington, he immediately sent reinforcements by sea to provide additional support for Cornwallis. The problem was that by the time those forces arrived at Chesapeake Bay, the French Royal Navy was already in position, blocking their path to Yorktown. Not only that, but unless the British navy could force the French out of the way, Cornwallis would have no means of escape from Yorktown.

YORKTOWN SIEGE continues >>